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28 AMERICAN SEA SONGS.
accuracy of its pictures is as notable as their vigor. But these are poems, and not songs, and there is nothing in the naval songs of the civil war which will compare with those of the war of 1812. It was rather past the time for the genuine forecastle ballad, and none of the land poets hit the true vein, as Buchanan Read, Stedman, and others did when commemorating military exploits.
There was one other field of American seamanship, full of romance and excitement, which should have produced some worthy poetry and song, and that was the whaling service before the days of iron steamers and bomb lances. The chase of the gigantic cetacean in the lonely solitude of the Arctic and Indian oceans, the fights in frail boats with the maddened monster and all the perils of sea and storm, the visits to the palmy islands in the Southern Sea and the frozen solitude of the Arctic, were full of the materials of poetry. The long watches of the monotonous cruising during the four years' voyage gave plenty of time for any occupation, whether it was carving whales' teeth or making verses; and there were many bright spirits, attracted by the adventure of whaling, who could have made a literary use of their opportunity. The novels of Herman Melville, some of the strongest and most original in our literature, have given the romance of the South Sea islands as